“It is not about how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” This famous quote by Mother Teresa is one that perfectly summarizes what the children from government homes in Chennai did to help those affected by cyclone Gaja.
In just two days, the children at Annai Satya Home for Girls, Walltax Road, Government Girls Home, Kosappet and Government Girls Home, Kellys made around 2,600 wax candles to be sent to cyclone-ravaged districts that have plunged into darkness after Gaja destroyed several electric poles in the affected areas.
Priya, who is referred to as Priya Amma, runs Gold Hart Foundation, an NGO that helps children coming from difficult family backgrounds pursue their higher education. She thought of this idea when she saw a Facebook post about the affected areas needing candles. Ariwarasan, a travelling science teacher who has taught over 10.5 lakh students so far, had uploaded the post on social media.
“He had posted about making candles to be sent to Gaja-affected areas and I wondered why not do it here? It would benefit both the children and the people in need,” she says.
Ariwarasan shares that in 2015 he taught his students candle making to send them to different parts of Chennai. “It is a very small investment and I’ve taught children in the past on how to make candles. Also, this time, when I was involved in relief work, I saw that candles were being sold at higher prices. I wanted to do something about it,” he says.
The candles were then made with the intent of sending them to cyclone-hit areas, free of cost. “This was when Priya amma called me and we discussed feasibility,” he says.
Ariwarasan explains that one kilogram of wax costs around Rs 140 which would be priced lesser if they were to buy it in bulk. “It is possible to make Rs 8 candle for Rs 4. This brings down making costs by 50%. Would this affect the people who are already in the candle making business? I’m sure ours is just a drop in the ocean,” he says.
With minimum investment, children at these Government homes began making candles. “A Jain association was kind enough to donate a few candle making machines to us with which we began making the candles on a trial basis. In just two days with the participation of 30 to 35 children from two of these homes, we were able to make 2,600 candles,” says Priya.
A volunteer who was travelling to Pudukottai took with him 200 candles and gave them Rs 1,000 as a contribution. “We got more material with this money,” shares Priya.
She further explains that cyclone-hit areas, most of which are yet to have their power restored, will have requirements for candles for the next one month.
“We had children above 14 years of age making these candles. The other younger ones helped in packing. It truly was a very goosebumps-inducing moment for me when I saw the happiness on these children’s faces after having made the candles. They were quite proud of what they made and were very happy to be of help,” she says.
Priya also says the entire effort was possible because of a team effort. “The role of the superintends and the wardens of these government homes was paramount. Also, the entire team of Gold Heart Foundation played an important part in trying to connect with our known network for donors.”
The team has requested for more donors to come forward and sponsor for the buying of raw materials which would go into making these candles. Those wishing to do so can call +91 9884629206.